Jun 10, 2021
By Tony Dunst
Ever since the first poker boom in the early 2000s, people have been guessing about what would trigger the next one. I’ve heard everything from “Opening up China” to “Attracting more women” as reasons that we’d see the next poker boom, but I’ve always been skeptical that anything could truly cause ‘the next boom.’
However, the last six months have created a set of conditions where I’m finally ready to admit, we may be experiencing the next boom; even if it’s a short-lived one. I want to use this blog as a medium to discuss what those conditions are, and how they’re generating interest in the game of poker.
The pandemic: Everyone was looking for new games, hobbies, and distractions during long months of quarantine, and poker appears to be one of the main beneficiaries. It’s no secret that online poker traffic skyrocketed in the early months of the pandemic, and while the initial rush has receded, I think poker will retain plenty of those new players from that period. Now that vaccines are available and major tournaments are running, players are rushing to poker rooms for the live experience. This is borne out in the numbers: the April WPT at Seminole Hard Rock shattered our previous record for entries in a main tour event, and everything running in Vegas lately has been jumbo-sized.
The everything bubble (and inflation): I’m no economist and I won’t pretend to know how much of a bubble we’re in, but for the last year nearly every asset class imaginable has made between decent and explosive gains. Anyone holding or buying those assets over the last year is feeling flush, and the money is pouring into poker. And the best of those gains have been made in cryptocurrency, which many poker players are aggressively exposed to. Who knows whether this bull market lasts for years or just until Elon’s next tweet, but while everything remains ‘Up Only’ the poker world will flourish.
American online poker momentum: Real money online poker has been making progress at a glacial pace since Black Friday in April 2011, with only three states having any form of legalized real-money online poker for most of those years. However, following a change of leadership (and influence) at the US Department of Justice, there’s renewed confidence that the Wire Act will no longer pose a risk to being applied to various forms of interstate gambling; opening the door for more states to legalize online poker and potentially join liquidity sharing with the established states. It looks increasingly likely that the new markets in Michigan and Pennsylvania will join the player pool in the near future, which would double the population of available players. Expanded online poker also creates the potential for more satellites and third-party registration into major live events, setting the stage for a more sustainable influx of players and money.